London? Day 5 – Return to Oxford

I went back to Oxford to show my parents around town and visit the Mini factory. I finally got to go to some of the places that I hadn’t been to yet too. We started off at ChristChurch College, climbed up to the cupola at the Sheldonian, and visited New College. After we went to the Mini Factory for a tour of their production facilities and had dinner at Eagle and Child. 

View from the Sheldonian Theater
View from the Sheldonian Theater

Due to all the graduations and ceremonies going on during the weekends I never had the chance to visit the Sheldonian Theater. It was smaller inside than what I pictured but the view from the cupola was fantastic. It was pretty much a 360 degree view of spires topping all of the campus buildings.  

Furry Car
Furry Car

After visiting some of the campus buildings, we took the bus down to the Oxford industrial park to the BMW Mini Factory. They had a showroom of various artistic takes on the car and the best one was this “Pet Mini” covered in cow fur. There was even an Olympics car and the car from Austin Powers. The factory was pretty neat and it was completely automated. There were robotic arms everywhere so it kind of looked like the rise of the machines or something. 

The Eagle and Child pub
The Eagle and Child pub

One of the places I had always wanted to go to but never did was this pub that was the favorite hang out of famous authors such as JR Tolkein and CS Lewis. The inside was pretty narrow and dark but full of history. All of the furniture looked like it was from a hundred years ago and the books and pictures lining the walls were antiques. It was probably the first pub I had been to that seemed like what I envisioned a pub to look like. The cider and veggie burger were delicious as well!

Last Days in Oxford

Quickly my five weeks have come to an end and it’s time to move on to more adventures. I used the past few days to see and do all the things I’ve been putting off for the past few weeks (sadly we never got to go punting).

First English style breakfast
First English style breakfast

Started off the morning with a flat white at Quarter Horse and learned that espresso drinks in England are comparable to the size of a double shot glass. We paid a final trip to the East Oxford Farmer’s market behind Tesco and headed down to the Magic Cafe on Magdalen Road. I had my first English style breakfast and was absolutely stuffed after. 

Magdalen College Chapel
Magdalen College Chapel

After saying goodbye to my friends, I attempted to gain free access to all the colleges I could after being inspired by our tour at Cambridge. I think the most impressive one was Magdalen with its beautiful chapel that housed not only these super cool statues but several monochrome/sepia stained glass windows, a statue of someone lying in a coffin, and a giant painting of the Last Supper hanging on the wall. 

Insider’s tip to Oxford is that it’s best to visit on a weekday if you come in the summer. A lot of the colleges close their grounds to visitors because of weddings on the weekend. Not even university staff are allowed in. 

Finally got to walk on the grass at Trinity College
Finally got to walk on the grass at Trinity College

After many weeks of staring from the outside in at this beautiful lawn of grass, I finally got to enjoy the one lawn that people are allowed to walk on in front of Trinity college. It was as glorious as an experience as I thought it would be. I had to really restrain myself from rolling around on the green carpet because I didn’t want to cause a scene…

The spires at sunset
The spires at sunset

This is the view down High Street in front of Magdalen College at sunset. I’ve really had a nice time in this beautiful city but it’s goodbye for now and on to more adventures!

Oxfordshire

For those of you who don’t know Oxford is actually part of a larger area called Oxfordshire. Since it’s our last full weekend here I decided to take a few day trips around the shire to some places that were suggested by our coworkers and other students. Unfortunately there were no Hobbits.

Front row seats on the double decker bus to Bicester Village
Front row seats on the double decker bus to Bicester Village

On Saturday some friends and I decided to check out the outlets at Bicester Village which is about 20min north by bus from Oxford. We got lucky and snagged the front seats on the S5 coach that we caught near the Ashmolean. It was pouring rain the entire time we were there and all the stores were designer brands. It was admittedly much classier than any outlet mall that I’ve ever been to in the states but the conversion rates made everything much more expensive. Nothing was within our budget range but we had some awesome gelato before we left. 

A view of the Cotswolds from Wytham Woods
A view of the Cotswolds from Wytham Woods

Another thing I was told to do here in Oxford is to go visit the Cotswolds. I spent a long time trying to figure out exactly where this Cotswolds place was only to find out that it was the name for the entire region left of Oxford. We got the chance to visit the university research woods earlier in the week and this view is basically the start of the Cotswolds. 

Secret entrance to the palace grounds
Secret entrance to the palace grounds

One of the closest towns that’s considered a Cotswolds Village is Woodstock, which is not the music festival venue but the home of Winston Churchill. A few weeks ago one of my coworkers mentioned a back entrance to Woodstock’s famous Blenheim Palace and I managed to find one of the public rights of access by searching online. The admission charges are steep but you can have full access to the gardens behind the palace through this gate for free! Some locals were there to help me open the gate (you need to twist the handle) and I got to explore the lovely grounds. This gate is located off of Oxford Road a little past the main shopping area and down the hill. Look for the Black Prince Pub and a green gate that says “95”. 

Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace

This place was probably as extravagant as Versailles but I didn’t go in so I don’t really know… Walking around the grounds and looking in from the outside were well worth the 10 mile bike ride from the city though. 

Out of the City

This past weekend I got out of the city a bit and biked to some other areas around Oxfordshire. Owls are one of my favorite things in the world so I headed down south about 12 miles (more if you count getting lost) to the Millets Falconry Centre and the farm that it was in. The flying show was amazing and now I want to become a falconer. (^v^)

Brasnose Woods
Brasnose Woods
IMG_7431
Kestrel
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Barn owl!!

Eating Around Oxford

I don’t really eat out much because it’s so much more convenient and cheaper to cook at home. Groceries are pretty reasonable too especially with farmers market season in full swing. There were some notable eats these past two weeks though. 

The AMAZING picnic "crate" with salad in flower pots from the staff summer party
The AMAZING picnic “crate” with salad in flower pots from the staff summer party
Tapas at Kazbar
Tapas at Kazbar
Macarons from Rick's
Macarons from Rick’s

Oxford Attractions

One of the perks of working here is free admission to all the colleges and places on campus that not everyone gets to see. My first priority was to find all the Harry Potter filming locations, but there were some other really neat places too. 

That part of Hogwarts where Malfoy got turned into a ferret
That part of Hogwarts where Malfoy got turned into a ferret
The Circle of Life at the Natural History Museum
The Circle of Life at the Natural History Museum
New College Garden
New College Garden

First Days in Oxford

The fourth of July means nothing to most people in England but it does have a significance in Oxford. It’s actually the day Alice in Wonderland was first dreamed up causing for celebration (and free admission to some places). After waiting a month for a visa and flying 12 hours I found myself here in a town that I’ve only seen in movies. Instead of following a white rabbit down a hole to some crazy place, it was more like following a road and ending up in Hogwarts.

Great Hall
Great Hall
Christ Church Library
Christ Church Library
Thames
Thames